10 facts you never knew about Disney's 'Aladdin'

Hanna Flint
10 facts about Aladdin (Credit: Disney)

The live-action remake of Aladdin is headed to cinemas this week 27 years after the original animation was released.

Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott take on the lead roles in the film, directed by Guy Ritchie, with Will Smith filling Robin Williams’ boots as the Genie.

So before you enjoy a whole new world of Aladdin this week, here are xx facts about the movie to whet your appetite.

1. Aladdin is 309 years old

The cover of Kay Nielsen's A Thousand and One Nights (Credit Courtesy of TASCHEN)

The story of “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp” appeared in One Thousand and One Nights, in 1710, when French translator added it to the collection of Middle Eastern folk tales from the Islamic Golden Age.

According to Galland’s diaries, he had heard the story from a Syrian scholar in Aleppo though no one has found the original Arabic source for it.

Read more: Aladdin stars blame Genie backlash on unfinished CGI

2. It wasn’t set in the Middle East

Agrabah (Credit: Disney)

Aladdin was actually set in a Chinese city, and Aladdin is not an orphan but a poor Chinese boy living with his mother. The assumption of a Middle Eastern origin comes mainly from the character names like Princess Badroulbadour, which means “full moon of full moons” in Arabic, also The Sultan is referred to as such and not the more Chinese term “Emperor.”

The dialogue is filled with devout Muslim remarks and platitudes too, suggesting this Chinese town was on the Silk Road route which cause many cities in the East to become multicultural.

3. Some character names come from The Thief of Bagdad

(Credit:United Artists)

A British film released in 1940, The Thief of Bagdad featured the characters Jaffar, the villainous Grand Vizier and sorcerer, and Abu, a thief who aids the hero Ahmad,a Sultan who falls in love with the Princess from a neighbouring city.

In the 1992 animation and live-action film, Jafar is again the Grand Vizier while Abu is the name of Aladdin’s monkey sidekick.

4. Genie was written for Robin Williams

Robin Williams (C) is recognized by Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co.,and Mickey Mouse for Williams' work in "Aladdin," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Dead Poets Society" (Credit: Adam Larkey/Disney-ABC Televsion Group via Getty Images)

The animators convinced Williams to play the role by animating the Genie with using the comedian’s own stand-up routines.

If Williams had said no, there was a list of other stars for the role including John Candy, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Martin Short, John Goodman, or Albert Brooks. Will Smith plays him in the sequel.

Read more: Scott on Jasmine’s feminist update

5. Aladdin’s look was based on Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise in Cocktail. 1988 (Credit: Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Despite the character being Arab, animators had used Michael J. Fox as inspiration for his look but ultimately they based his appearance on Tom Cruise.

''There's a confidence with all of his attitudes and his poses,” lead animator Glen Keane said of Cruise.

6. Iago is named after a Shakespeare character

(Credit: Disney)

Jafar's pet parrot is named for the villain from the Bard's tragedy Othello. Iago is the title character's best friend who manipulates him into killing his love Desdemona.

The animation has Gilbert Gottfried voicing the character, who took the role after both Danny DeVito and Joe Pesci turned it down. Alan Tudyk voices him in the live-action.

7. The lyrics to “Arabian Nights” were changed in 2017

The first song of the film features the lyric, “Where they cut off your ear/If they don't like your face/It's barbaric, but hey, it's home,” which many people argued was an offensive stereotype of the Arab world.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee campaigned to have it changed and Disney did, slightly, to “Where it's flat and immense/And the heat is intense/It's barbaric, but hey, it's home.”

They kept the “barbaric” line in to AAADC, and most Arab people’s annoyance, claiming that it referred to the climate. The live-action movie omits it.

8. 2,000 people auditioned for the lead roles

Mena Massoud, left, and Naomi Scott arrive at the premiere of "Aladdin" on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Disney put out a worldwide casting call for actors and singers from Arab or Asian backgrounds in order to play Aladdin and Jasmine.

This lasted months as producers reportedly found it difficult to find those who could do both but in the end Achraf Koutet, Mena Massoud, and George Kosturos got down to the final three for Aladdin while Naomi Scott and Tara Sutaria were the last two hopefuls for Jasmine.

Massoud and Scott were eventually cast and both do a pretty epic job in the movie.

9. The film was shot in the same place as Lawrence of Arabia

In this photo taken Sunday, June 26, 2011, the sun sets on Wadi Rum, south of Amman, Jordan. UNESCO named Wadi Rum one of five new World Heritage sites on Saturday, June 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Nader Daoud)

While most of the film was shot in the UK at Longcross Studios, desert scenes were shot in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert.

Lawrence of Arabia was famously shot in this location as well as Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker and Denis Villeneuve's Dune.

10. Aladdin and Jasmine are covered up because equality

Jasmine (Scott) and Aladdin (Massoud) (Credit: Disney)

The Disney animation saw Aladdin and Jasmine wearing revealing outfits but for the live-action, costume designer Michael Wilkinson chose to have their chests and bellies covered up.

“For the same reason why we thought it wasn’t appropriate for Princess Jasmine to be flashing her belly button for half of the film, we also felt that once you make that leap from cartoon into live-action, you really have to make some adjustments,” Wilkinson told EW.

“We thought having so much skin showing on Aladdin for the whole film would be quite distracting on a human actor as opposed to a cartoon character.”

Aladdin is out now